Living Art: Why the Demolition of Graffiti Park is Problematic

By Hannah Alvarado
Blog Content Contributor

If you’ve ever been to Texas, chances are you’ve visited 1012 Baylor St. in Austin, Texas. A once-large landmass that stood as cement ruins, abandoned, overgrown and quite the eyesore–until the 2011 South By Southwest event, when those ruins first evolved into the beautiful living art installment that remains fondly in many of our hearts. Graffiti Park, or “Hope Gallery” as is the area’s official and formal name, is that now-beautiful landmark. The issue? It was just declared by the historical landmark commission, to be demolished with an astonishing undisputed vote.

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The new location for Graffiti Park won’t have this same majestic, priceless view. Photo by Nicole Wolf.

According to an article by Christopher Neely on Community Impact, “9507 Sherman Road, on Carson Creek Ranch in east Austin, close to the Austin-Bergstrom International Airport” is set to be the resting place of the ‘new’ Hope Gallery. The area is not only a much less accessible location than its current resting place, but also a less desirable one as the famously gorgeous view at the very top of Graffiti Park will long be forgotten. The fact remains however, despite its promised relocation, the Austin Historical Landmark Commission unanimously agreed to its demolition/relocation which is extremely problematic.

There was absolutely no debate among these esteemed individuals on the board of commissions that this living art piece was in any way a historical landmark, despite the fact that the piece remained an extreme attraction for artists, tourists and locals alike throughout its lifespan. Conventional landmasses lined with conventional art are never in debate among individuals like these. Graffiti Park, though not everyone’s cup of tea, is very well-known and uniquely beautiful. While it is a more recently developed landmark, I’d argue that it is a historical landmark just the same.

Not only are we able to stand back and admire the art, but take part in it as well. Skill levels don’t matter, there are no velvet ropes that read “please don’t touch the art”, because any one person who wants to be a part of it can be. While it’s a very difficult task to actually define “what is art,” I can attest that Graffiti is art, and is worth preserving. Each time one visits, the bright strokes of spray paint display a new piece to behold. Treasures lay in many areas both big and small for your eyes to feast upon. People come to be a part of this living art. It grows, it changes, and refuses to remain stagnant.

In this way, Graffiti Park is much like the city of Austin itself. It is living art, growing and changing with every stroke that every individual contributes; it is unconventional and unique from minute to minute. True, it is set to be relocated, but that is far from the point. The idea that a board of art- and history-loving individuals can look upon the area and see nothing but a nuisance remains a problem because as time goes on and changes, so too must our definition of art and what is worth preserving.

Featured image by Nicole Wolf.


ktsw web content editor & music journalist. finding magic every day.

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